When I was in high school, I said one original thing which I hoped would get me into the big fat books of quotations. Boredom, I said, is a crime against humanity. Sadly, no one picked up on that, and unlike anything Keats or Shelley said, it did not travel around the world. Maybe it wasn’t funny or profound or even original. But I did believe that no one had a right to be bored.
It says something about us that the worst thing we can say about someone is that he is boring. We carry a picture of such a person in our heads – an accountant, perhaps, who lives with his mother and talks endlessly about Disney movies or how he once saw a footballer in a restaurant. He talks about himself when we want to talk about ourselves. Boredom might just be conversation flowing in the wrong direction.
Can the study of boredom be boring? Dr Wijnand Van Tilburg of Essex University has said it is actually very interesting. After extensive research into boredom he has arrived at some interesting conclusions. For one, bored people tend to be boring.
His research has also revealed that I have the third most exciting job in the world (journalism). Only science and the performing arts are more exciting. So if I were a scientist who danced professionally and then wrote about it while teaching people about the therapeutic effects of dancing, I would have the top five most exciting jobs in the world (health professional and teacher being the other two).
I watch a lot of TV and love doing maths – and that almost cancels out any excitement my job brings me because these two are the most boring hobbies.
Anyway, I cannot be the most boring person in the world. That honour – if that’s the word – belongs to a religious data analyst who lives in a small town. I am not religious, I wouldn’t know data analysis if it came up to me and introduced itself and I live in a city. Phew!
It is telling that four of the top five boring jobs involve money or the counting of it (accounting, data analysis, tax/insurance, banking). We like to pretend that money or the making of it is boring – it makes us feel philosophical and above such concerns. Maybe even sophisticated. But this list says more about how people perceive themselves, or would like to be perceived as. And that’s quite boring.
Like friends at school, I wanted to become an astronaut or sportsman or lead an expedition to the Everest. Apparently, none of these is exciting. And that’s a terrible realisation for those who actually chose these paths.